In El Nido for the majority of our vacation to the Philippines, we had ample opportunities to enjoy the beautiful waters that surrounded us. The view from this small, but quickly growing town would dazzle the most discerning traveler. Dozens of islands are spread across the bay, each climbing out of pristine waters, reaching for the beautiful blue sky.

Eons of tidal fluctuations and crashing waves have carved these islands into monuments spotted with patches of green. Like the trees that struggle to maintain their place on the rock face, swimmers, snorkelers, and divers in this area can’t help but feel lucky to be there.

One of El Nido’s biggest draws is its fantastic swimming and Island Hopping Tours. These tours are offer by a few dozen companies but they are standardized to include the same stops and the same general route across the waters. Some of the tour companies offer different packages and optional side trips, so shop around if you are interested. Inevitably, all visitors are continuously offered tour packages by trike drivers, convenience store clerks, waitresses, and even random strangers walking down the street who all have deals worked out with the people actually running the tours. These tour companies also generally offer various other services or know how/where to find/do anything.

We read into which were the best tours and decided on Tour A and Tour C. In particular, these tours are reputed to have the most beautiful beach respites and swimming around coral reefs. There are secret beaches which require swimming through a hole in the rock face, beautiful lagoons with coral reefs teeming with fish, gorgeous beaches, and much more that lingers in my mind but defies description because of its sheer breathless beauty.

I can try, though: the rocks and water-it’s…that lagoon around that part of the other rock. The view… No one was at that one place with the…rocks and sand… Nevermind.

Really, these tours are worth the trek to El Nido by themselves. The snorkeling is great and the islands are picturesque in the most cliche way. Boating from stop to stop you are surrounded by postcards worth of mental images (and literal ones if you risk your camera equipment like we did). These tours generally go from around 9am to 3-4pm. For lunch the guides pull your group up onto a beach where they grill a great lunch of meats, fish, fruit, and rice. I don’t know if my hunger had simply built from a morning full of swimming and chasing fish but the lunches on both days were fantastic. They know what they’re doing and the meals serve as great fuel to keep you going for the afternoon ahead of you.

Below I have listed the stops on the two tours.

Tour A – Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach

Tour C – Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine and Star Beach